During the I/O 2018 Developer Keynote, Google announced a successor to the APK format that will bring wild new features and improvements to the Android ecosystem.
One big problem with Android apps today is that they’re, well, big. Over the years, Android apps have greatly increased in average size, and conversely, statistics have shown that the likelihood of a user to install an app decreases with its size.
Launching today in Android Studio 3.2 is the ability to do something about it, by creating what’s called an ‘App Bundle’ that separates your app into different components like language, screen DPI and more. When serving an App Bundle to a device, the Play Store will analyze the device and download only the portions of the bundle that are needed, reducing both the download and total installation size. This process of only downloading the minimum required is called ‘Dynamic Delivery.’
This reduction in APK size will be felt across the world, especially in countries where bandwidth is restricted, with some developers finding size reductions over 50%. Excitingly, App Bundles are compatible with 99% of all Android devices.
The excitement doesn’t end there though, as the App Bundles page indicates incredible new possibilities. Once an app has been broken down into a bundle, it becomes possible to add features after installation. Using the Dynamic Delivery system, Google Play can serve up additional capabilities to your app as you need them. This feature is currently in closed beta testing.
Lastly, and still in development, App Bundles will one day enable developers to make any of their existing apps ‘Instant’ without necessarily creating a dedicated ‘Instant Apps’ version. Once an app has been made instant, it can be opened via a link without any installation. How this will look and feel to the average user is yet to be seen.
Interestingly, we’ve discussed the possibility of similar instant app and dynamic features support being in the works for Google’s in-development Fuchsia OS. Regardless of platform or OS, these changes are really going to take tomorrow’s smartphones into the realm of ‘magic’ and I’m very excited to see that take place.